Milk and dairy products have a prominent place in people’s diets, and a positive image as nourishing foods that combine health and pleasure. In Europe and the US, annual consumption of all forms of dairy products (milk and milk drinks, cheese, butter, cream, yoghurt, etc.) exceeds 150 kg per person per year.
Milk is sensitive to the risk of contamination by microbes or chemicals in the environment, however. As a result, in many countries the dairy industry is subject to increasingly stringent regulation, as regards both hygiene standards and the chemicals used which may leave residues. The rapid spread of information on cases of food poisoning or contaminated dairy products has also increased consumer mistrust, and it is more important than ever to them that they can consume safe dairy products. It can be costly to issue warnings and then to recall suspect products, both financially and in terms of reputation. At the same time, these same consumers also want products with no residues, leading to an avoidance of over-invasive hygiene and disinfection solutions.
Prevention, a golden rule
Control of the health quality of milk and dairy products begins on the farm and remains an imperative during transport and throughout the various stages of manufacturing for finished products. It is a priority and a constant concern for manufacturers in the dairy industry to prevent risks of contamination by pathogens (salmonella, listeria, Escherichia coli, etc.) or chemicals (plant protection product residues, biocidal substances migrating from contact surfaces, etc.). The challenges of food health safety, hygiene and safety in the workplace have to be reconciled with environmental issues.
Factories are complex buildings with facilities, equipment and materials that may all be vectors of direct or indirect contamination. They therefore need to be cleaned and disinfected appropriately, ensuring that washing tunnels, concentrators and other at-risk areas are not sources of contamination. This requires surfaces to be microbiologically clean (with a well-controlled level of micro-organisms), chemically clean (no chemical substances deriving from production or cleaning/disinfection), and free from residues and allergenic ingredients.
As different dairy products mean different issues, each requiring specific technologies, and each plant is unique in terms of its geographic location and its surrounding environment, Kersia’s experts offer solutions to suit the constraints of different processes. Our teams draw on their knowledge of techniques and technology to ensure regular monitoring of cleaning-disinfection protocols, via optimised hygiene product consumption and general cleaning costs, as well as controls to evaluate the parameters and the quality of hygiene practices and provide prompt warning of potential problems.
Choosing the most appropriate solution with Kersia means:
- ensuring that food is safe in compliance with regulations
- enforcing operator safety and equipment integrity
- making water and energy savings to optimise costs
- reducing the environmental footprint.
To achieve this, our R&D teams have developed exclusive measurement and optimisation systems that deliver significant reductions in the consumption of product, water and energy.
Faced with problems of spore contamination which were affecting the stability of its milk, a major dairy group called upon Kersia’s expertise. A task force involving Kersia and a number of well-known microbiology equipment and diagnostics companies spent two years working to reduce contamination on the dairy group’s different production sites. The outcomes were safe finished products and major cost optimisation.
The challenge of biofilms
In some cases, conventional cleaning methods are of limited effectiveness when it comes to biofilms, communities of micro-organisms (bacteria, fungi, algae or protozoa) which secrete a protective adhesive matrix that allows them to adhere to each other and to a surface. The combination of enzyme cleaning and an alkaline detergent base has been shown to remove biofilms at least as effectively as treatment with sodium hydroxide. The enzymatic products offered by Kersia co-developed with our partner REALCO achieves the best performance especially for the cleaning of membrane filtration systems.
Since air is a vector of polluants, dairy product manufacturers need to control air quality in at-risk areas. Cheese producers are a good example: they wish to avoid the release of Mucorales in the manufacturing process. While not dangerous to humans, the presence of Mucor (a mould that feeds on dead material) on some cheeses creates cosmetic defects that means they cannot be sold. The Pure Air technology developed by Kersia enables continuous treatment of the air to limit airborne pollution of facilities, with people and foodstuffs present. It collects and destroys pollutants, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air, and removes odours.
Case study: Mucor-free cheese
A major cooperative dairy group of 4,500 producers had noticed that cheeses from one of its production sites were repeatedly contaminated with Mucor. The audit by Kersia’s experts identified the contaminant and established the at-risk areas that were promoting its spread. The Pure Air equipment was installed in a packaging room with a very high fungal flora and total flora load, reducing instances of contaminated production considerably.